Sergei Winogradsky

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Sergei Nikolaievich Winogradsky (or Vinogradskii; Russian: Сергей Николаевич Виноградский) (September 1, 1856- February 25, 1953) was a Russian microbiologist, ecologist and soil scientist who pioneered the cycle of life concept and discovered the biological process of nitrification, the first known form of chemoautotrophy.

Winogradsky was born in Kiev, in what was then the Russian Empire, and attended the University of Saint Petersburg in 1881, studying natural sciences and receiving a degree of master of science in botany in 1884. In 1885, he began work at the University of Strasbourg under the renowned botanist Anton de Bary; Winogradsky became renowned for his work on sulfur bacteria. In 1888, he relocated to Zurich, where he began investigation into the process of nitrification, identifying the genera Nitrosomonas and Nitrosococcus, which oxidizes ammonium to nitrite, and Nitrobacter, which oxidizes nitrite to nitrate. He returned to St. Petersburg for the period 1891-1905 and there was chief of the division of general microbiology of the Institute of Experimental Medicine; during this period, he identified the obligate anaerobe Clostridium pastorianum, which is capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen. In 1901, he was elected honorary member of the Moscow Society of Natural Science and, in 1902, corresponding member of the French Academy of Sciences. He retired from active scientific work in 1905, dividing his time between his private estate and Switzerland. In 1922, he accepted an invitation to head the division of agricultural bacteriology at the Pasteur Institute at an experimental station at Brie-Comte-Robert, France, about 30 km from Paris. In this period, he worked on a number of topics, among them iron bacteria, nitrifying bacteria, nitrogen fixation by Azotobacter, cellulose-decomposing bacteria, and culture methods for soil microorganisms. Winogradsky retired from active life in 1940 and died in Brie-Comte-Robert.

Winogradsky is best known for discovering chemoautotrophy, the process by which organisms derive energy from a number of different inorganic compounds and obtain carbon in the form of carbon dioxide. Previously, it was believed that autotrophic organisms obtained their energy solely from light, not from reactions of inorganic chemical compounds. Winogradsky was one of the first researchers to attempt to understand microorganisms outside of the medical context, making him among the first students of microbial ecology and environmental microbiology. The Winogradsky column remains a fascinating display of chemoautotrophy and microbial ecology, demonstrated in microbiology lectures around the world.


  • Waksman, S.A. 1946. "Sergei Nikolaevitch Winogradsky: The study of a great bacteriologist" Soil Science 62:197-226.

See also

de:Sergei Nikolajewitsch Winogradski hu:Szergej Vinogradszkij uk:Виноградський Сергій Миколайович